18 Microsoft Word Tips for Lawyers
December 9, 2022
Did you know that 90% of legal professionals use words every day? Of those, 56% report spending more than three hours daily in Word. So, if you’re investing time in learning software shortcuts, tips, and helpful tools that will save you time, Word is a great place to start. This blog will cover Microsoft Word tips for lawyers and some of our top tricks, hacks, and basic shortcuts we think all attorneys should know about.
1. Leverage Microsoft Word Templates for Attorneys
Reinventing the wheel is not necessary for lawyers. Our #1 Microsoft Word tip for attorneys is the template. By creating your own Microsoft Word legal templates, you can build a set of basic automated documents for repeated use. Word templates allow you to merge simple client information into fields within a template document, which can save hours per month on simple documents such as standard letters, agreements, and forms.
For more complex documents and to automatically change pronouns, tense, and pluralize content, you will need a more robust document automation tool such as Smokeball. A few additional benefits to taking that next step include automatic document versioning, effortless organization of files associated with matters coming from email, and the ability to insert multiple parties’ information into over 20,000 preformatted documents, and jurisdiction-specific court forms. Necessary data fields can be created as set properties that remain the same from one document to another. You don’t have to risk exposing another client’s information if you inadvertently fail to remove the previous client’s data.
2. Master Microsoft Word Styles
Uplevel your firm’s professional image, set and maintains brand standards, and save hours upon hours of formatting with Styles in Microsoft Word. Take some time to get to know the Styles pane in the right section of the Home tab, and you can save lots of time over your career.
- Use default styles: Word offers some default styles, and it’s up to you to decide if they work for your law practice and scope of work.
- Create your styles: Do you want all your docs to have a specific font type, size, and line height? It’s simple to create styles.
- Adjust styles: Have an existing style (default or custom) and want to modify it? No problem. Right-click on it in the Styles column and click Modify.
Styles can be limited when important documents are copied/imported from outside sources with foreign formatting. For this, a Microsoft Word extension or our favorite shortcut may be beneficial – paste text without formatting (see below). Train staff to use the firm’s preferred fonts and colors by saving the same template settings in the Styles feature. Then everyone will know how to create legal documents in Word so that briefs, letters, and other documents look consistent across your practice.
3. Learn Shortcut Keys
You probably already know a few shortcuts – like cut, copy, paste, print, or save. A major one to know is the Ctrl + Shift + V = Paste text without formatting (+ Shift + V on a macOS). If you’ve ever pasted something into Word and then spent several minutes reformatting it – you can benefit from this hack. This is particularly helpful when copying text with irregular font sizes, double-spaced, out of a table, or from the internet.
Here are some of our other favorite formatting shortcuts:
- “Double click” a word – select one word
- “Triple-click” a word – select the entire paragraph
- Ctrl + X = Cut
- Ctrl + C = Copy
- Ctrl + V = Paste
- Ctrl + S = Save document
- Ctrl + Z = Undo last typing / action (can press repeatedly – by default up to 100 actions)
- Ctrl + Y = Redo last typing / action (only available after “undoing” an action)
If you use macOS, the shortcuts may involve the CMD () key instead of the CTRL key. Suppose you’ve spent years working on Windows machines and can’t adapt easily to macOS (or just don’t want to). In that case, adjusting your keyboard settings to adjust these “modifier keys” in your macOS to make your Mac more closely resemble a Windows machine is possible.
4. Create Your Own Shortcuts (Word Macros for Lawyers)
Need your own shortcuts? Maybe you want to drop a link to your online portal in multiple client documents or use the section symbol § for your frequent Code citations in your text. You can do this easily using the Macros feature. In the ribbon tab, select View, and then click on the Macros dropdown menu. You can “record” exactly what you want to do and name the shortcut. This is a great way to recreate the macros you used to use in WordPerfect!
5. Use Quick Parts
Lawyers often keep a library of text excerpts they repeatedly use. For estate planning lawyers, these could be clauses they often use in wills or trusts. For personal injury lawyers, this could be part of a standard demand letter for insurance policy limits. Instead of using separate documents with content to reuse, you can use “Quick Parts” in the “Insert” Menu in Word. Easily save your most-used text segments and insert them into any document with just a click.
6. Expose Formatting
Turn on formatting to quickly identify issues document-wide. Viewing extra spaces, line indents, and issues with columns can add unnecessary time to document editing. Avoid these common issues when formatting legal documents by going to File 🡪 Options 🡪 Display. Then check a box for each type you would like to see.
7. Use the Quick Access Toolbar
Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) allows you to shortcut your most-used tools in an always-visible menu. Hover over any of the features you use in the ribbon menus, right-click and select “Add to Quick Access Toolbar”. You’ll see an icon for each appears in the master menu in the far top left of your screen. This simple change can save you hours!
8. Compare Two Documents
It’s common to work with two Word Documents next to each other. If you need to check the two documents for the changes between them, Word has a legal blackline feature, which can be found in the Review tab by clicking on the Compare option. A third document will be created revealing what’s changed.
9. Combine Changes
Combining changes from multiple authors can be a pain! When you have multiple versions to review, you can incorporate the changes in one document while preserving each associate’s changes. See the Combine Changes feature in the compare dropdown menu under the review tab. Each individual’s changes are revealed in a different color, making it easy to see who edited what.
10. Mark Citations
Creating a table of authorities or references doesn’t have to be time-consuming. With the Mark Citation feature, you can create an automatic table of authorities, including the numbers of the pages that your references appear on.
11. Customize Autocorrect
One of our favorite tools! Create abbreviations that will instantly autocorrect to the full version of the text, law firm names, and more. For example, have a sign-off sentence you use often? A short abbreviation like “PCO” can autocorrect into “Please contact our office if you have any questions about this matter”. Use legal terms that Microsoft Word flags down in spell check; you can customize autocorrect so that the terms are recognized. You can also use autocorrect to insert special symbols you frequently use, such as telling autocorrect to change any instance of “ss” to insert “§”.
12. Leverage Navigation Pane
A benefit of using Styles, the navigation pane is a clickable table of contents for your document. It is advantageous when working on long agreements and legal documents. Headings that use (H1, H2, H3, H4, etc.) will display in a collapsible menu on the left-hand side of the document.
13. Explore the Developer Tab
Need to create forms for your clients to fill out in Word? The developer tab allows attorneys to create a form for others to fill out. You can use a legal document template in Word or create your original document. Suppose you want to maximize your efficiency further. In that case, the developer tab can also be used to write macros that will run later on a form created or filled out in Microsoft Word, such as formatting a date on a form to a standard format or capitalizing first and last names.
14. Restrict Editing
If you’re sharing a document but want to lock specific parts of it from editing, Word allows you to restrict unwanted editing. Perhaps you’re working on a brief with a paralegal and want them to edit a specific section but leave the rest of the document alone. You can turn off track changes for parts of a document that should not be touched. Under the Review tab, in the Protect group, select Restrict Editing.
15. Mark as Final
Want to restrict all editing? Mark your document as final before sharing, and it will become “read-only”. By setting it to “Final” viewers will be able to read and share feedback and unable to edit or add text and any proofing marks. Note that Mark as Final does not prevent someone from copying your document into a new document; it only locks the ability to edit the original version.
16. Protect Your Legal Documents with a Password
Some law firms have a policy of password protecting all documents – this is one way to further protect attorney-client privileged information or safeguard sensitive HR/employee files from unintended viewers. We recommend creating unique passwords different from your other logins and ensuring you have administrative rights that will override access to documents created by staff members in the event of termination. To add an encryption password, select the File tab, select Info, then select Protect Document. Click the Encrypt with Password option.
Note – that if you want to get serious about version control and document access, it may be time to invest in a solution that 1) integrates with Microsoft Word and 2) is built specifically for securing legal documents.
17. Remove Metadata
Metadata is the property of a document – and many people may not realize it can contain confidential or privileged information. Although no attorney would want to disclose confidential information – metadata can provide information without even realizing it. The information included in metadata can include:
- Originally misspelled words in the document;
- The name of the client for whom the document was created;
- The name of every person that has worked on the document;
- Editing comments;
- How much time was spent working on the document;
- Who was the original creator of the document?
Removing metadata from a document is informally called “scrubbing” or “sanitizing”. The process is slightly different depending on the version of Word you are using and if you are using a Mac. Generally, you can find this information in the file menu and the info tab. The Seton Hall Law School has a good tutorial on the process of removing metadata. Third-party products are also available to remove Metadata.
18. Achieve Peace of Mind with Backup and AutoRecover
Whether in college, law school, or legal practice, we have all lost work on a computer at one point – and the experience can range from inconvenient to unforgettable. Fortunately, Word provides tools to make total document loss less likely – and you can also beef up your document preservation security by updating Word’s settings.
By default, Word’s AutoRecover feature is automatically turned on. Safeguard against accidental edits (or toddlers or cats accessing your keyboard) by selecting the “always create backup copy” option. Set the “Save AutoRecover info” to every 5 or 10 minutes to have an accessible, recent copy of your work.
Unlock the Potential of Microsoft Word for Lawyers with Smokeball’s Unmatched Automation Suite
Microsoft Office for lawyers can be customized to increase productivity firm-wide, but such efficiency is not automatic. Smokeball’s out-of-the-box automation empowers lawyers, paralegals, law clerks, and other legal professionals to level up their legal document processing. You can save time, protect your client’s confidential information, and bill two times more on average by maximizing what Microsoft Word can do with Smokeball. The industry-leading lawyer time tracking software, where all your time is automatically tracked. Smokeball brings professional tools and powerful legal document automation software to your firm, no matter how small your practice is.
Contact us to schedule a demo to see how Smokeball’s seamless integration with Microsoft Word and Outlook can improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability.
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